CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 6
Winston Churchill’s third book, SAVROLA, was also his only novel. We visit it next in our out-of-hibernation stroll through Chartwell’s shelves.
SAVROLA is a work of dystopian fiction. In it, Churchill imagines a popularly-elected President hellbent on becoming a dictator. Savrola, heroic leader of the reform party, takes to the streets to stop him.
No, you can’t make this stuff up. But Churchill did.
Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania has long been dismissed as a minor Churchillian work. Even Winston Churchill thought he could have done better in his first attempt at fiction. As with so much of Churchill’s life and work, however, the test of time continually reveals ever new and resounding resonances — never more so than right this minute for Savrola.
In fact, Churchill began writing Savrola on his way to India in 1897, well before his first published book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, setting his novel aside for the career-making opportunities offered by his war reportage. Savrola remains, without question, a youthful first novel. But even a cursory plot summary can take one’s breath away just now.
Churchill set Savrola in a fictional republic whose malevolently corrupt president, ambitious and unprincipled, is powering himself toward an authoritarian dictatorship. The President has ruthlessly crushed protests by having his people shot down in the streets. Savrola, popular leader of the reform party, seeks to stop the President by constitutional means, but finally realizes that a military takeover is the President’s only goal. Driven into exile, Savrola, in the end, returns to destroy the dictator and restore his nation to democracy.
The weakest elements of Savrola are Churchill’s attempts at love scenes written for his hero and a beautiful paramour (strongly based on his mother). The strongest aspects, however, are Savrola‘s self-evident relevance to our own dire present moment.
We have any number of rare editions of Savrola on our shelves currently, including both First American and First English editions (the American edition was, in fact, published first, in 1899).
It is clear, though, that every citizen (and non-citizen) in America should be reading Savrola right now. We wish there was an inexpensive paperback in print that we could share with you. Though a work of fiction, Savrola stands as the quintessential evocation of Winston Churchill’s political philosophy; already full-born at the age of 24. Nothing concerned him more than demagoguery. Hitler was, at the time of Savrola‘s publication, no older than 9. Other malevolent demagogues had yet to be born. But Winston Churchill already knew what was needed to stop them.
We wish you, more than ever, continued safety and health, in the brave spirit of Savrola.